After practice on Saturday, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the status of Matt Murray’s injury, TJ Brodie’s possible return vs. Washington, the decision to move Alex Kerfoot into the 2C role next to William Nylander, and John Tavares’ 1,000-game milestone.
Practice Lines – January 28
#Leafs lines at practice Jan. 28/23
Extra: Benn-Timmins@BodogCA @RinkWideTOR
— David Alter (@dalter) January 28, 2023
TJ Brodie was saying he is feeling really good and ready to play tomorrow. What does his return mean to the team?
Keefe: We will get the final word from him and the medical team later today or in the morning. Obviously, he increases our depth greatly and is a vital piece of our defense core. It slots everybody else in well. It allows us to spread out the minutes. He will be a welcomed addition, of course.
What is the status of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov?
Keefe: Matt is going to get more tests today and we will have a better idea of what is happening with him there. In terms of Ilya, it is just a maintenance day today. He will be back in tomorrow.
Are you concerned at all about the workload for Samsonov? How do you view that?
Keefe: We tried to get him a day off yesterday. Of course, that was the intent. It didn’t work out that way. We tried to manage it with a day off today.
From his perspective, he would like to play every day. I don’t think it is a big deal that way. It is important or us to manage it as best as we can, but given the circumstances, we are going to get him right back in there.
We wanted him to have the day off yesterday. It didn’t work out that way, but we want him to play tomorrow, for sure.
Is anyone going to be recalled from the Marlies?
Keefe: I am not certain of the status of that. We are trying to get as much information on Matt’s situation as we can before we make the corresponding move that may come with it.
Has it been a nagging issue for Murray?
Keefe: Yeah, it is an ankle issue for him. It is something he has been dealing with for a while and had settled. He had been going through his workouts and such fine. It flared up on him a little bit. He didn’t feel comfortable playing. The medical team held him out.
Is that part of the reason why Samsonov was given the run of consecutive starts?
Keefe: No, it’s unrelated. Matt was ready to play throughout. It was more that Ilya was in a groove and we wanted to keep him going.
The players mentioned wanting to hash it out together after the game following the tough loss to Ottawa. What did you make of how the team responded after the loss?
Keefe: I think that is on them and it shows the growth of our team. It shows the guys care. It shows that they are not happy with their performance.
Of course, you like that as a coach. You would like it to be in the moment and to be able to address it and fix it on the fly. To be honest, for most of the season, that has been the case. We have been able to rectify things and get back to it.
Yesterday, it was a case of us having a real strong first period, not a good second period that put us in a hole, and not a good enough third to dig our way out of it. To do that on home ice is not acceptable.
It is good that the players acknowledge that. It allows us to come in and have a good work day today, move on, and get ready for Washington.
When you had Pontus Holmberg on William Nylander’s line yesterday, is that a case where you go to Alex Kerfoot and tell him to be ready in case you need him in that spot?
Keefe: There is a little bit of that — for both him and Kampf, for that matter — in terms of being able to support Pontus in that regard. Also, it’s making them understand that both of those guys feel confident to take on that kind of responsibility, but we were going to give a young player a chance. There is that piece.
As it worked out for Pontus, it was a byproduct of his own penalties and some of the special teams going on with four-on-four and power plays both ways. It affects his minutes a little bit. I thought he did some good things in the game.
I actually thought it was one of Alex Kerfoot’s better games in a while. Going into the third, I thought we could maybe change it up a little bit and give Alex a chance to help us dig out of a hole. It didn’t work out that way, but I still think as we go into playing two teams such as Washington and Boston before the break, a little more experience in the top six would serve us well.
That still doesn’t change how we feel about Pontus and his ability to take on a little bit more as he gains more experience in the league.
As his coach, what will go through your mind when John Tavares reaches the 1,000-game milestone tomorrow?
Keefe: Tremendous night for him. You want him to enjoy it — him, his family, and his friends. It is a tremendous milestone and a tribute to the hard work and commitment that he has put in. He has many more games ahead, but certainly, for a day, pause and think about what you’ve been through to get to this point.
To play one game in the NHL is something, but to play 1,000 at the level he has is pretty remarkable.
John Tavares has been remarkably healthy throughout his career. On the other side of the game tomorrow, Alex Ovechkin has been remarkably healthy as well. What goes into a player who can just keep playing?
Keefe: I am only familiar with John, but in his case, we have talked about this a lot. Anyone who knows him knows how particular he is about taking care of his body, his rest, his recovery, and his in-season training to maintain his strength and flexibility.
His off-season training allows him to stay in great shape, come into camp in great shape, and start off seasons well. He had a little bit of an injury to start this season, but the way he has bounced back from that and not allowed it to be something that lingers is a tribute to how he takes care of himself.
It is pretty impressive when you watch from a distance how he goes about it. Through 1,000 games, you don’t slip for a second in terms of your detail and your preparation. That is why he gets to be as healthy and consistent as he has been.